Is mouth breathing bad for your teeth? Dental professionals share risks and remedies

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Dental hygiene is important for overall wellness, but are your breathing habits affecting your oral health?

If you’re breathing through your mouth, this might be the case, according to Dianne Sefo, clinical associate professor and chair of the Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting department at NYU.

“Mouth breathing can impact oral health in a variety of ways,” she said in an email to Fox News Digital.

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For children, Sefo specified that mouth breathing can affect dental development.

“It can result in muscle imbalance, which can lead to facial alterations and improper positioning of teeth,” she said.

Mouth breathing can also cause dry mouth, Sefo mentioned, and saliva is “important in maintaining oral health.”

She noted, “In addition to its role in digestion, it provides lubrication, helps with washing away food debris from teeth and gums, reduces plaque accumulation, has an antibacterial effect, neutralizes acid and provides minerals to keep the teeth strong.”

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Sefo added, “Due to the variety of functions it has in the mouth, saliva helps prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.”

Manhattan-based cosmetic dentist Dr. Michael Wei also noted that dry mouth can increase the risk of cavities.

man checks breath

“Additionally, mouth breathing can lead to an imbalance in the mouth’s pH levels, which can also lead to tooth decay and other oral health problems,” he said in an email exchange with Fox News Digital. 

“Long-term mouth breathing can also lead to an increase in the risk of gum disease, as well as issues with the alignment of the teeth and jaws,” the dentist added.

How to address mouth breathing

To avoid breathing through your mouth, Sefo suggested pinpointing the underlying cause, which might require treatment from a health care provider.

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As cold and flu season makes it more difficult to breathe through our noses, Sefo recommended that sick people stay hydrated by continuously sipping water and keeping up with at-home dental hygiene routines.

Drinking enough water helps thin out mucus, making it easier to breathe through the nose, Wei noted.

man sleeps with mouth open

The dentist also suggested avoiding allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust and mold, which can cause nasal congestion and mouth breathing.

The use of nasal sprays can help reduce congestion as well, while nasal strips can help open the nasal passages and make it easier to breathe, Wei said.

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Practicing nasal breathing exercises can help strengthen the muscles and tissues in the nose and improve overall airflow, he added.

In a 2015 Harvard Medical School Q&A, university experts recommended that people with mucus build-up sleep with their heads propped up on multiple firm pillows.

man sleeps in bed

If elevating the head doesn’t work, getting in touch with a health care professional is the next suggestion.

“You may have an allergy or polyps obstructing your nasal passages that can make it difficult to breathe through your nose and may need to see an otolaryngologist,” the Harvard publication noted, referring to an ear, nose and throat specialist.

If elevating the head doesn’t work, getting in touch with a health care professional is the next suggestion.

“Meanwhile, be sure to brush and floss your teeth regularly and drink lots of water to moisten your mouth throughout the day.”

Make sure to maintain oral hygiene

People should brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once, Wei said.

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Using a tongue scraper, water flosser and mouthwash may also help remove food particles and bacteria from the mouth, he added.

“People with mouth breathing may benefit from using a nasal rinse to help clear the nasal passages and reduce nasal congestion,” he also advised.

mother checks son's brushed teeth

“Lastly, people should visit their dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and exam.”

Other extra tips to ensure better dental health when struggling with mouth breathing, said Wei, include the use of saline solutions to help flush out the mucus and bacteria that can contribute to tooth decay.

He also recommended avoiding sugary and acidic drinks, which can erode tooth enamel, and chewing sugar-free gum to help stimulate saliva production and wash away bacteria.

“Visit the dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings,” he advised. “This allows your dentist to monitor your dental health and make any necessary treatment adjustments.”

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